I have a soft spot for thematic trilogies. The possibility that three films in a director’s filmography, when put side by side will enrich each other based on their concurrent themes, is a tantalising prospect. It’s one that invites you to revisit films you may have seen many times, and view them from a different perspective, gaining something altogether different. I don’t think I’ll gain a new perspective on The Interview years down the line, but I do see it as the third entry in an arguably very loose Rogen-Franco bromance trilogy, the first entries being Pineapple Express and This Is the End.
The difference this time is that the familiar element is dressed up as a satirical action-comedy where our two star-crossed lovers are Dave Skylark and Aaron Rapaport, the presenter and producer of a trashy talk-show, who are tasked with assassinating Kim Jong-un. As I’m sure you know, this very idea has caused Sony to be the victim of a hacking attack with the perpetrators attempting to stop the release of the film entirely. The vehemence of this response implies a film with an acerbic edge that holds nothing back in its ridicule of the North Korean leader and his dictatorship. Sadly for those of us who enjoy that kind of biting humour, there is very little of it to be found in The Interview, and one could almost wonder just what did Kim Jong-un take such offence to? Maybe he just doesn’t like Katy Perry that much.
I’m being a bit facetious but it’s hard not to be a little disappointed, what with all the hype that’s being going on in the past few months. Instead of the satire you get a crap-ton of below-the-belt jokes, most seemingly revolving around rear ends, but the crudeness is dispensed with such juvenile glee that you might find yourself giggling even though you clearly know better. The opening scenes where we’re treated to segments from Skylark Tonight set the film up nicely with fantastic straight-faced cameos from Eminem and Rob Lowe. From here the film seems to stutter, both in humour and pacing, and it’s not until the supreme leader appears that things start to pick up again.
By far the best comedic performance in the film comes from Randall Park, who humanizes Kim Jong-un to hilarious effect. The film knows that it is in essence a bromance movie and puts a fun little spin on the formula as dictator and presenter spend a day shooting some hoops, driving a tank, partying with hookers and end up becoming best buds. Franco is clearly having the time of his life in these scenes, and every scene in fact, and his Skylark is a great blend of idiotic energy and sincere innocence, just right for the tone of the film. By contrast Rogen seems a bit lost, perhaps getting more comfortable behind the camera as he co-directs with Evan Goldberg. He’s needed for the bromance but comes off bland in the wake of Franco’s ample pizzazz.
By the time the eponymous interview comes, the film finds its feet again and launches into an enjoyable and surprisingly measured action finale. Without the back and forth bickering of its leads there’s a sense of purpose and the comedic moments – mostly callbacks to earlier pieces of dialogue – are much funnier delivered in this way, particularly the gruesome but still hilarious pay-off to all those Lord of the Rings references.
The Interview is good but nothing brilliant, competently made but lacking in real laughs. It’s premise promises so much but it was probably wiser to dial down expectations given the team involved. It does score points for its uniqueness though and can be enjoyed partly because of that. I mean, where else are you going to see an explosion set to the strains of Katy Perry’s Firework? Certainly not in North Korea.